Winchester Center Quilt and Needle Art Show

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This past weekend was the fourth annual Winchester Center Quilt and Needle Art Show. Winchester Center is the town in which our country house is situated. It is in Northwest Connecticut, but not the toney part of NW CT. We do have a beautiful New England green complete with church, Grange Hall, Historical Society and gazebo. The gazebo is fairly recent–a fine example of our increasingly sophisticated village infrastructure.

This quilt show is sponsored by the Winchester Center Congregational Church. They have a quilting guild and our neighbor, Mary Pat Leger, organizes the show. The quilting group meets twice a month on Wednesdays. Once a year they take over the church for the big quilting show. Services on that Sunday are held in the basement in deference to the display of quilts in the sanctuary.

This is not a fancy church but the sanctuary is full of light and it is a tremendous vehicle to display these quilts and works of needle art. The amazing variety of artistic expression belies the rural setting. There are some incredibly talented women plying needle and thread in these parts.

Each quilt has a story. There is a program to guide the visitor throught the displays. Take 581 Leaves for example. The woman who made this quilt saw the pattern in a Leisure Arts booklet. It was called 580 Leaves. She loved the pattern and started to work away. Her house was numbered 581 on her street so she added an extra leaf to remind her of where she calls home. She may have used a pattern, but that extra leaf makes her quilt one of a kind.

Scott was the only man I could see whose quilts were on display. He loves the outdoors and wildlife and he made a woodsy quilt of browns and greens and wildlife for his father-in-law. It was fascinating to see his aesthetic in contrast to the many quilts made by women. With one possible exception, it was recognizably male.  That he would make a quilt for his father-in-law says so much about his family and I can see his father-in-law curling up in that quilt and thinking of the loving man who married his daughter.

The Sisters Quilt was a family traditon. The women in that family would all work together to creat a special quilt to celebrate a milestone birthday of a woman in the family. Sisters, sisters-in-law, mothers, all would work together to create a work of art for the recipient. They were scattered across the country, but they were joined in the creation and celebration. What a beautiful way to commemorate family.

One of my favorite quilts was made by a mother with a son in the Marines. She had taken his old uniforms and cut them up and pieced a camo quilt. She had quilted the oath of enlistment into the background of the quilt. I think this is brilliant and a perfect example of the traditions of quilting being updated with meaning. What an amazing act of love and respect that she would integrate the words of the oath of enlistment into the quilt. It took my breath away even if my photo was not perfectly in focus.

The local Quilts of Valor chapter meets twice a month to make quilts for service men who have been wounded in battle. They have made hundreds of red, white and blue quilts which are sent overseas to wounded servicemen. These women are anonymous to the recipients, but they are well known for their work. There is apparently a waiting list for their quilts so prized are they. They ship their quilts to Afghanistan and send love and comfort with every stitch. I can only imagine the impact that these works of love and art would have on a wounded serviceman far from home.

Standing in the aisle and admiring a quilt, I wondered aloud at the pattern which had been used. My question was answered by the woman passing by who had happened to have made that particular quilt. She had worked for eighteen years for the only pediatric cardiologist in Maine. The Doctor’s husband had died this past fall and she had stitched a quilt with the happiest fabrics she could find for her friend and former boss to cheer her in her grief. That pretty much summed up the entire show.

These quilts each had a story. Each story was filled with love and respect. Each represented tremendous craft and art. Whether traditional or innovative, each was a unique expression of an artistic vision. I was both in awe and humbled by what I saw and the deep devotion and depth of artistry each work represented.

Such a glorious spring day and such a glorious sharing of creative vision.


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